Polluting old vehicles roam free

Inspector shortage, laxity, trigger violation of registration norms

Eight years ago, the government’s proposal to ban entry of transport vehicles over 15 years old into the city had triggered a vociferous backlash.

Truckers, autorickshaw drivers and maxicab operators were up in arms. Today, about 3.7 lakh such transport and non-transport vehicles roam the city roads, most of them without the re-registration and fitness certification mandated under the Motor Vehicles Act. Faced with a severe staff crunch, the transport department has no one check them either!

First, the facts. By March 31, 2013, the city had about 3.65 lakh vehicles older than 15 years, a substantially high number considering their potential to play havoc with the environment and raise the already high air pollution levels. Of these, 72,975 were transport vehicles, including taxies, motor cabs, maxi cabs, autorickshaws, buses, trucks and lorries. Old autorickshaws alone, often perceived as the most polluting of the lot, numbered 37,326. Over the last year, these numbers have shot up even further.

So, why doesn’t the government act tough? Obviously, the trucker and autorickshaw lobbies are strong enough to resist a ban. But the State vehicles themselves are guilty of compromising with standards, say transport department sources. “There was a consensus about allowing only Euro-4 compliant vehicles for even KSRTC. But automobile dealers started selling unsold vehicles that were only Euro-3, in their non-Bangalore outlets. The government fell for such offers,” reveals a source who was privy to such deals for years.

A fitness test is mandatory for every commercial vehicle. This fitness certificate has to be renewed once in two years for new commercial vehicles and once a year for old vehicles. But such periodic fitness checks are not mandatory for private vehicles. However, 15 years after the vehicle’s initial / first registration, it has to go through a fitness test and a re-registration that is valid for the next five years. 

This is rarely followed, since the shortage of vehicle inspectors is acute in most Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) in the city. On paper, insurance cannot be renewed if the fitness / emission check certificates are not up-to-date.

But, as the sources assert, there are insurance agents aplenty too keen to complete the renewal formalities without any vehicle inspection. 

Laxity has crept into inspection of emission check certificates, called Pollution Under Control (PUC). Rules mandate that vehicular emission has to be checked two to four times a year, once the vehicle age crosses two years. A PUC certificate is issued based on conformity to idel emission test for petrol vehicles and free acceleration smoke test for diesel vehicles.

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